A registered charity, we have offices and staff in England, Ireland, Malawi, Northern Ireland and Scotland.


Vinny Smith 


I am the Chief Executive of the Meningitis Research Foundation and joined in 2015 having previously been Director of STAND Consulting which advised non-profits in the UK, Africa and US on strategic planning, fundraising and organisational development. I also previously worked at Cancer Research UK for 7 years and later became Chief Operating Officer in the international development and domestic violence sectors. I am the author of a recent conference report on the use of mobile health and technology in West Africa following the Ebola outbreak; a panel member of Rogare the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University’s Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy and a guest lecturer at the University of the West of England on Organisational Development.

I’m thrilled and lucky to be MRF’s Chief Executive at such an exciting time. Vaccines are already proving their worth in controlling some forms of meningitis and septicaemia in the UK. And research into new and better vaccines for wider protection in the UK must continue to build on this success. At the same time meningitis is still a common cause of death in some of the poorest countries in the world. Whilst those challenges persist, so does our work.

Advocacy and Communications

Adrian Robson
Acting Manager Communications

Hi. I'm Adrian Robson. I work in the Communications Department at the Foundation and have done since 1999.

I look after lots of e-communications, like this website and the social media, so if someone's tweeting or messaging on Facebook, it's usually me.

I also work to increase media coverage of meningitis and septicaemia and the work of MRF.

Having a true understanding of the devastating effects of the diseases, through our Members, continues to be my main motivation.

Read our Members' stories on site in the Book of Experience

Becky Pierce-Jones
PR Manager

Hi, I’m Becky Pierce-Jones and I’m the PR Manager for MRF. I joined the Comms Team in 2011 and my role is to promote the charity, its aims and the work of our researchers, members and fantastic fundraisers across the UK and Ireland in local, regional and national media.

I also co-ordinate Meningitis Awareness Week in September, which is a huge team effort, and could not succeed without our members talking about their experiences to their local newspaper, radio station or TV.

Personal experiences of the disease is what I need to keep Meningitis Research Foundation and the work we do in the media and the forefront of people’s minds, so if you are willing to tell your story please do get in touch.

Roisin McAuley
Communications Intern

Hello, I’m Roisin and I joined Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) in September 2015. As an intern my role is both social media – helping the Communications team run Facebook, Twitter and our website, and PR – promoting the charity, its research, fundraisers and members.

I love talking to our incredible members and supporters, and co-ordinate the Books of Experience. I enjoy helping people share their experience of meningitis and septicaemia; so if you would like to share your personal story or would like media coverage for your fundraising efforts I would love to hear from you.

Amy Luker
Communications Officer

Hi, I’m Amy and I joined Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) in October 2012 as a Communications Officer. My role is to look after the various publications we produce and to support the Communications team with PR, visuals, event logistics and e-communications.

I am so pleased to be working for MRF and it is very rewarding to know that the work I do helps support the many people who have been affected by meningitis and septicaemia.

Membership & Fundraising

Diane McConnell 
Head of Community Engagement and Fundraising
Deputy CEO

I have been with the charity since 5 April 1995. 

I love my job and get great satisfaction from working with members and supporters of the charity who are as committed to the cause as I am. 

I have four grown up children and three grandchildren. I like family Sundays and walk, read and garden when I get the time.

Mary Millar 
Scotland Office Manager 

I'm Mary Millar and I'm the Scotland Manager. I joined MRF in July 2009.

My background is in marketing and advertising within the private sector, skills which I have found useful in promoting the Foundation further in Scotland, and driving forward increased awareness, support and fundraising campaigns.

I really enjoy being involved with all our Scottish Members and Supporters, and helping to make a difference to our important cause.

Monika Marchlewicz 
Ireland Manager

Hi, I’m Monika and I have worked for the Foundation since May 2006.

My motto has always been 'Don't just do it - do it with passion and pride!' The true meaning of this was never more apparent than when I started working for the Foundation. It is a privilege to work alongside so many amazing, skilled and passionate people who really do make a difference! I am proud to represent MRF.

My proudest accomplishment is beautiful and smart son. Away from the office, I enjoy outdoor activities, including gardening, and home improvement projects.

Shirley Gieron
Head of Membership and Support

Hi, I'm Shirley and I lead a team of dedicated staff and nurses working within the Membership  and Support department.

My work with members and individuals who have personal experience of meningitis and septicaemia includes home visits, the Telephone Befriending Network, giving talks to health professionals and community groups, running Members' Days and linking with other agencies and charities dealing with neurological and physical disabilities.

I feel privileged to support people affected by these diseases through times of extreme crisis, sharing their experiences and working with them through life changing trauma.

Ian Beningfield 
Deputy Head of Fundraising

Social and new media fan, part time geek and formerly prolific coffee drinker. I've been with the charity since 2004, in the past I was involved with many of the charity's community events including most recently the running programme

These days I spend a lot of my time finding new ways to use technology and the web to boost our fundraising, stay in contact with our members and supporters and baffle my colleagues with jargon.

Katherine Freeman
Information and Support Officer

Hi, I’m Katherine and I joined Meningitis Research Foundation in August 2015. I raise awareness of meningitis and septicaemia by sharing medical information about the disease with the general public and health professionals.

I am involved in organising MRF events for families and health professionals, and meet our members and supporters in the community offering our support, whatever their experience of meningitis and septicaemia.

I also take helpline calls and answer emails from people with a range of queries about meningitis and septicaemia, including symptoms and after effects, and offer them support if they or their loved ones are affected.

I am humbled by the inspirational people we meet.

Aimee Tavana
Membership and Fundraising Assistant 

Hi, my name is Aimee and I’m the Membership Fundraising Assistant. This means I look after all of our individual fundraisers who create their own events, or take part in something a bit different. So, if you have any questions, or would like help in organising a fundraising event, just get in touch!

I also have a few other projects in the pipeline, which I’m super excited about, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled for updates!

Emma Shepherd
Community Engagement  Officer

Hi, my name is Emma and I joined Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) in January 2015 as the Foundation's Community Engagement Officer. My role is to work with our members and ambassadors, supporting them, and helping them to help us! Outside work, I am a keen runner and cyclist, and relish a challenge of any sort.

I am excited to be working for MRF – To work with such truly inspirational people is a privilege.

Tom DeFraine 
Events Fundraiser 

Hi I’m Tom and I’m in the fundraising team.

I’m  working mainly with Universities and RAGs on raids and megaraids as well as organising London Loot in April. I’m also in charge of our Big Fun Runs across the country.

If you fancy a challenge or want to shake a bucket for us then get in touch – we always have plenty of permits up and down the country. 

Esther Trackman 
Community Fundraiser 

Hi, I’m Esther

I’m looking after parachuting and some of our key running events – Bath Half Marathon, Silverstone Half MarathonReading Half MarathonGreat Manchester 10kRun to the BeatGreat North Run and Great South Run

My aim is to make sure anyone taking part in an event for us has the best possible experience and achieves everything they set out to do. It’s wonderful to see people reach and surpass their goals, especially as so many of the people I work with are taking part because they have a personal connection with the cause. Meeting supporters at the events is my favourite part of the job, so if you sign up for one of the runs I’m looking after I may well see you soon! 

Clare Mills 
Fundraising Assistant 

Hello my name is Clare and I work for the student team here at Meningitis Research Foundation. 

I love travelling and meeting new people, which is why I knew this was the job for me. 

Being part of the student team is so much fun as there is always some amazing event happening or some crazy story from a student. 

If you fancy coming up with a crazy event, need any fundraising ideas or support, just get in contact.

Claire Rooney
Trusts Fundraiser 

I look after the trusts and foundations which provide support for our medical research portfolio, and our life-saving medical information, awareness raising and support work in the UK as well as programmatic work in Africa.

I’ve been working in fundraising since 2012, with major philanthropists, trusts and foundations, and before that I was a private client solicitor, advising high net worth clients on wills, trusts and tax planning. I love working in the charity sector, and find it really rewarding to see the impact of the work that I’m fundraising for, so it’s a real pleasure to work with an organisation like MRF.

When I’m not busy trust fundraising, I’m a keen (and reasonably good!) photographer, and enjoy climbing, cycling and running.

If you are a Trustee or Grants Manager who would like to find out more about our work, I would love to hear from you.

Tianna CowanTianna Cowan 
Corporate Fundraising Assistant 

Hi I’m Tianna.

I’m very excited to be working for such a fantastic organisation, which has interests both here in the UK and internationally.

As the charities Corporate Fundraising Assistant, I aim to support fundraising efforts by securing donations from companies across England & Wales.

I enjoy building relationships with people so am truly relishing the opportunity to develop relations with corporate supporters, and inspire organisations to join our fight to rid the world of meningitis.

Get in touch today to involve your company in our campaign.

Alison Baker 
Scotland Fundraising Officer 

Hi, I'm Alison and I work in the Edinburgh office of the Foundation. 

I've been working in a fundrasing role since 2006 and I thoroughly enjoy the large variety of fundraising that our office deals with. 

I'm happy to help with all things fundraising in Scotland. 

Dawn Carrie
Scotland Office/Fundraising Administrator

Hi , I'm Dawn and I started at the Foundation in August 2009 and as an Office and Fundraising Assistant in the Edinburgh Office. 

As well ensuring the smooth running of the office, my role includes organising street, supermarket and can collections in Scotland as well as helping with fundraising events. I rely on the help of all our wonderful volunteers, members and supporters, who I thoroughly enjoy meeting.

Emma McNeill 
Northern Ireland Fundraising Officer 

Hi, I’m Emma and I’ve been with the Foundation since March 2007. 

I am responsible for generating income through our varied calendar of events. My role involves liaising with members and supporters on a daily basis, coming up with new fundraising ideas and coordinating events. 

I myself have taken part in abseils, ziplines and freefalls in order to raise funds and encourage others for their support. I am still amazed by people’s fundraising efforts and the lengths they go, to achieve their goals. 

It’s a real privilege to work with families who have been affected by this truly devastating disease and it’s a constant reminder of how vital my work is. 

I'm on maternity leave at the moment.

Karen Dunlop
Ireland Fundraising Officer 

Hi I'm Karen

I've joined the charity's Belfast office as a temporary Fundraising Officer to cover Emma's maternity leave. I'm very excited to be part of a great team and working with members and supporters to raise funds for such an important cause. The charity's vision of a world free from Meningitis and Septicaemia is very inspiring and it's rewarding to think of the impact our work is having both at home and in other parts of the world.

I'm looking after various fundraising events in Northern Ireland, including runs, various challenge events and raffles. I'm also responsible for developing corporate and trust fundraising and encouraging support from schools and universities in Northern Ireland. I enjoy meeting members and supporters, hearing their stories and helping them to make their fundraising a great success. I also enjoy experiencing some of the events first hand and have taken part in abseils, ziplines and runs. I'm always on the lookout for my next fundraising challenge! 

Keli Wilkinson 
Northern Ireland Fundraising Officer 

I work as a Fundraising Officer in our Belfast Office and have been with the Foundation since October 2007. 

The role is extremely varied and there is never a dull moment which is great! I work closely with Emma Collins, the other fundraiser in the office, although I am responsible for parachute jumps, overseas challenges, corporate fundraising, marathons and that's just for starters! 

I really enjoy talking to members and supporters and meeting them at events as I think that makes all the difference. I really enjoy being able to help people with their fundraising ideas and find the role very rewarding. 

We are a small team in Belfast but we all work very well together which makes it a great place to work.

Research and Medical Information

Linda Glennie Linda Glennie
Head of Research and Medical Information

I'm Linda Glennie and I'm Head of Research and Medical Information at MRF where I've worked since 1997.

I work with scientists and health professionals across a range of disciplines to develop information materials for the public and for health professionals, and I've co-authored several educational resources for nurses and trainee doctors. I also organise  the scientific programme for the Foundation’s biennial international conferences.

I'm responsible for managing the administration, peer review and monitoring of the Foundation’s international research programme. In collaboration with the Department of Social Medicine at the University of Bristol I manage the Impact of Meningitis project.

I was a member of the Guideline Development Group for the NICE guideline on Bacterial Meningitis and Meningococcal Septicaemia, published June 2010.

I have a background in biological sciences.

Claire Wright Claire Wright
Medical Information Manager

My name is Claire and my role as Medical Information Officer involves working on the educational materials that MRF distributes to health professionals and the public, making sure that it is up to date with findings from current research. 

I also try to answer specific medical questions we receive about meningitis and septicaemia and promote the charity's work at conferences around the country. 

It’s very rewarding to work on awareness literature which may go on to help save lives and support those who have been affected by this disease.

Anna Jones
Research Officer 

Hello, my name is Anna and I oversee the peer review and monitoring of MRF’s international research programme. I work closely with the Scientific Advisory Panel and am the main point of contact for our researchers. I enjoy working with the Comms team to translate scientific research into bite size articles for use on social media, on our website and in press releases. I also organise the academic poster exhibition at our international conference as-well-as several other smaller scientific events throughout the year.

Rachel Perrin Rachel Perrin
International Development Officer

Hi, I’m Rachel. I oversee our Action Meningitis project in Malawi, which is committed to reducing the number of child deaths and disability from meningitis.

In Malawi health clinics are chaotic and overcrowded. Very sick children wait hours; some die before the doctor has time to see them. Action Meningitis improves chances of survival by helping health workers quickly and accurately identify severe illnesses, like meningitis. Using a specially created mobile phone app, health workers assess a child’s symptoms on arrival, and emergency cases are fast-tracked to hospital.

This work in the clinics is dove-tailed with radio and theatre campaigns to help raise awareness of meningitis within the community.

Working alongside Thomasena, our Blantyre-based project manager, my role is to help plan, implement and fundraise for the project.

Ashleigh Hunt
Scotland Information Officer

Hi, I’m Ash and I have been with MRF since 2012. I am responsible for meningitis awareness and support across Scotland. If you have had experience of meningitis I am here to help in any way I can, so please do get in touch.

If you would like to find out more about meningitis or raise awareness in your local community I can help through providing information and literature as well as coming to deliver a presentation tailored to suit your needs.

Caroline O'Connor 
Ireland Medical Information Officer 

I work as the Medical Information Officer for Ireland and have been with the Charity since December 2012.

I enjoy my job as every day is varied and I get to meet and work with a lot of different and inspirational people. I get great satisfaction from promoting meningitis awareness in Ireland and working towards the shared goals of the Foundation.

Thomasena O'Byrne
Thomasena O'Byrne
Project Manager for the Action Meningitis project in Malawi 

Hi I’m Thomasena. I’m Project Manager for the Action Meningitis project in Malawi and I’m based in Blantyre, Malawi’s second largest city.

Managing the day to day operations of the project keeps me busy! Co-ordinating the delivery of the project involves working closely with the healthcare workers, clinic in-charges and Malawi Ministry of Health to ensure that the triage system is running smoothly in the clinics. I also manage our Fieldworkers, who gather data so that we can monitor the system is working well. I also help troubleshoot any issues that arise, in collaboration with our technology partners, D-tree International.

I also co ordinate our health awareness programme for local communities. Through radio and theatre we deliver messages about meningitis, to encourage early recognition of the disease and prompt action.

Each day brings with it new challenges but it has been incredibly rewarding watching both the healthcare workers and patients benefiting from our intervention which ensures that those children that are very sick are prioritized to be seen by a clinician before non urgent cases. This was not the case when we started working on this project and can literally mean the difference between life and death.

I am very excited about developing our work later in the year with the wonderful local communities here in Blantyre district through the Theatre for Development component of Action Meningitis. This will really help to further our understanding of the misconceptions of meningitis in Malawi and to work with the local communities at grass root level to raise awareness of the symptoms and the importance of seeking health care as early as possible.

Operations and Projects

Mike Taylor
Head of Fundraising

I’ve been running my own management training consultancy since 1995, and am excited to have joined MRF in February 2012.

I’m also Chair of Trustees for local arts organisation Circomedia, a custody visitor at our local inner city police station, and mentor for an organisation that supports new social entrepreneurs.

I host a website for local runners, I’m a keen cyclist (I love my 11 mile commute!), and I’ve led charity challenge expeditions in S America, Africa, China, Borneo, and Nepal.

If you wish to share any thoughts, ideas or feedback that can help us here at MRF, please feel free to contact me.


Wioletta Tometczak 
Administrative Officer 

I have worked as the Administration Officer in Dublin since November 2007. 

I relocated from Poland in 2004, but I rarely feel homesick in Dublin as it is a great place to live in.

MRF is a great environment to work in. Not only am I responsible for running the office smoothly, but I also organise various collections and support fundraising as well as awareness activities in Dublin office.

In my spare time I love reading books, watching movies and travelling.

Paul George

Office Manager and PA to CEO 

I have been with MRF since 1995, initially working 3 hours a day while managing a young family. Since then I have slowly become full time and moved over from fundraising to the position of office manager. 

I am a keen supporter Charlton Athletic. 

Ann Bevan

Administration Assistant 

My name is Ann Bevan and I joined MRF at the beginning of June for the second time after a brief spell at the beginning of the year. 

I was delighted to be asked to return and my role has been extremely varied and interesting. No day is ever the same. 

I joined the Admin team in Reception at the end of August, assisting Office Manager Paul George with the income, literature requests, stock and general day-to- day business. 

Having started in Fundraising, I split my time with general administration required by the Fundraising, Helpline and Membership teams, as required. I like to think of myself as a Facilitator!

I really enjoy the people I work with and enjoy coming to work every day. I embrace the vision of the organisation and hope that one day there will be a world without these potentially life-changing diseases in the future. 

Kelly Latham
Finance Manager 

Hi I'm Kelly  and I've been working for MRF since May 2004 as the Finance Manager. 

My main role is to process all the income and expenditure for the whole charity including satellite offices and preparing monthly management accounts, but colleagues would agree an important part of my job is paying their wages!

I enjoy working for the charity and hopefully one day I will be able to keep on top of my filing!

Sue Gillett

My name is Sue Gillett and I've been working for the charity since November 1994 - how time flies!

I'm the cashier and I deal with all the financial paperwork that comes into the charity, such as invoices, expenses forms, purchase orders and, more seriously, the banking.

I also spend time trying to collect tea and coffee funds from the staff, this is sometimes the hardest part of my job.

Felicity Robbins Felicity Robbins
Fundraising Adminstration Officer

Hi, I’m Felicity aka, Flick.

I’ve been with the team since Spring 2013 and my role is to keep the fundraising team on their toes by supporting all aspects of fundraising, finance and admin.

I will on occasions join the fundraising team when they go out and about to meet all our members and supporters at events, so if you see me make sure you say hi.

If you need a collection tin, bucket, merchandise, or just have a fundraising enquiry then pop me an email.

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